AGRICULTURE

DEM offers farm viability grants to promote specialty crops in R.I.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL Management has $150,000 in farm viability grants available for Rhode Island farmers interested in "specialty crops."
Posted 2/13/13

PROVIDENCE – There are $150,000 of farm viability grant funds available to Rhode Island farmers from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management to help “enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops” grown in the Ocean State, according to the agency.

Specialty crops are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery crops including floriculture and turf grass production.

The grants, which are funded by the USDA program, will range from $10,000 to $50,000 with no direct match required. Funding will be provided in two stages, with 50 percent given up front and the remaining half awarded at “the satisfactory completion of the project,” according to a DEM news release.

The grants may be used for projects expected to last up to two years and can include: research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health, product development, education, “buy local initiatives,” the development of cooperatives and for programs that provide increased consumption and innovation or reduce costs or environmental conserves.

“The growth of agriculture in Rhode Island can be seen across the state, from the explosion of farmers’ markets to the promotion of local foods in our outstanding restaurants,” DEM Director Janet Coit said in prepared remarks.

“Rhode Island’s $1.7 billion green industry – and the 12,300 jobs it supports – is a bright spot in the economy of our beautiful state, thanks to growing consumer interest in products grown locally,” said Coit. “On top of these economic benefits, agriculture also contributes to tourism, open space, quality of life, and access to local foods and horticultural products.”

Coit pointed to Fresh Farm Rhode Island as a prime example of an effort that is supported by the specialty crop grant program.

“Today, Farm Fresh Rhode Island is a successful local food system that sponsors the Farm to School program; a host of year-round farmers’ markets; distribution channels for bringing locally- grown products to restaurants, worksites, hospitals, grocers, schools, food pantries and community centers; and special events such as the Local Food Forum held last week at Brown University,” said the DEM release.

Any agricultural or educational association or organization, individual farm or resident in Rhode Island is eligible to apply.

“Grant applications and projects must further the competitiveness of specialty crops as broadly as possible in Rhode Island, and not just serve to enhance individual farm viability pursuant to USDA program guidelines,” said the release, adding that grant funds will not be awarded for “projects that solely benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual.” DEM urged single organizations, institutions and individuals to participate as project partners.

A downloadable grant application is available on the DEM website. For questions, contact Peter Susi, the deputy chief of DEM’s Division of Agriculture at 401-222-2781. Applications accompanied by a W9 form must be emailed to Susi in Microsoft word format at peter.susi@dem.ri.gov or postmarked no later than March 31 and mailed to:

R.I. Department of Environmental Management

Division of Agriculture, Room 370

235 Promenade St

Providence, R.I. 02908

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